While many players and prospects have been loaned overseas ahead of the unknown start date of the 2020-21 NHL season, few need the the head start as much as the Calgary Flames’ Juuso Valimaki. The promising young defenseman missed the entire 2019-20 season and postseason after suffering a torn ACL last fall. Yet, with five veteran defensemen about to hit the free agent market, the Flames are trusting that Valimaki can return to form and take on a top role on the blue line right away next season. After so much time away from the game, it will take more than just training camp to get Valimaki up to speed ahead of the new year.
Cue Tampereen Ilves of the Finnish Liiga. Calgary announced that they have loaned Valimaki to Ilves to get him game action before he returns to North America. Valimaki is familiar with the club, having played in their youth system, including a year with the U20 team in the top Finnish junior league, before making the jump to the WHL and eventually the NHL.
With Ilves, Valimaki will be able to get used to playing the major minutes that the Flames may expect of him this coming season. A relatively young team, Ilves has just a handful of players that are considerably older than 21-year-old Valimaki. They have also not received anyone on loan from the NHL prior to Valimaki outside of a trio of prospects – Lassi Thomson, Arrtu Ruotsalainen, and Lukas Dostal – who were on loan all of last season as well. Valimaki will have a chance to take on a key role for the team and should be ready to go once he is recalled by Calgary.